FAIRMONT - Each year, Fairmont Exchange Club polls community members, asking for nominations of someone in the area who exemplifies service, someone who has dedicated their time and efforts into strengthening the community and whose self-sacrifice, response to duty, and praiseworthy actions have gone largely unnoticed.
Since 1975 the club has found someone who fits that description to give the Book of Golden Deeds Award. The most recent honoree is Phil Hanson, known around town for his dedication to fitness and to service.
Hanson credits his many involvements to a lifelong determination to get what needs to be done done.
"I was the last of nine kids," he said. "We didn't have a lot of modern conveniences. Instead of spraying for weeds, we hoed them. We walked every row crop we grew from the time I can remember until I left the farm."
Hard work on the farm led directly to hard work in the military.
"It was that kind of existence," he said. "When I went into the service, it was the same. ... It was ingrained in me that work was not a big deal."
So after moving to Fairmont in 1968, Hanson began raising his family with the same attitude.
His love of athletics led to a position as a middle school gym teacher, a job that came with a key to the gym.
"The kids had a lot of friends," he said, "and I had access to the gym."
He began overseeing groups of students playing on weekends and volunteering his time to organizing activities. He started officiating games, which took more and more time as the years went on.
"It has been second nature to me," he said. "It was easy to adapt to volunteering because I was, and still am, very healthy."
The years of hard work on the farm and after left him with a large and varied skill set. When he found himself with a little time on his hands, he would do something.
"I have always taken to the challenge before me," he said. "Instead of sitting around, I would help people. ... If somebody asked me to do something, I probably would."
Hanson is very involved in organizing the triathlon held each summer in Fairmont, the multi-sport club, and other athletic races.
Outside of exercise-based activities, Hanson is on the board of directors for Red Rock Center for the Arts, as well as on the organization's events committee. He was involved in the renovation of the Martin County Historical Society's parsonage project, and works with the Martin County Preservation Society to maintain the Chubb House.
He has walked children to school with the Safe Routes to School program, and has been involved with establishing the trail and floating bridge with the Hobo Trail and Bridge Nature Walk Committee. He also worked on the restoration of the Livingston House in Lincoln Park, replacing the roof and windows.
"As I got involved in more volunteerism, I got to see the beauty of the change beyond the work," he said. "What is it going to take to get from point A to point B is usually two or three hurdles called work."
The Exchange Club is accepting applications for the next Book of Golden Deeds award winner. Contact Ron Kopischke or Mitch Nelson at (507) 235-5538 for an application or further information.